NSW traffic cops prey on farmers’ drought misfortune
Cops hit hapless truck drivers with unlawful traffic fines
NSW Liberal Government just as bad as Labor when it comes to farmers and the transport industry
from The Land
Hay carriers are upset that they are being targetted for minor infringements on the Newell Highway as they try to bring relief to drought-hit farms.
Scores of hay trucks travel the Newell Highway each day, bringing hay up from Victoria, but according to one driver the Roads and Maritime Service inspectors were picking them off almost one by one.
One major place to stop trucks was in the park at Narrandera where Eugowra truck driver Peter Cox was hit with a $330 fine – but no infringement- for being over length. Ironically, if he had just one bale on the back of his truck he wouldn’t have copped a fine. But because he had 43 bales, his split-tray truck was classified as having two divisible loads.
He had to undergo a drugs test and face a log book inspection. He’d never been through a drugs test before. “Well, this is your first,” an officer said.
He said the RMS was ruling the highway between Narrandera and West Wyalong, which he saw in most cases as just revenue raising. Mr Cox carries hay for the large Glenleigh Pastoral Company at Eugowra. He was bring hay from Boort in Victoria to feed sheep. Because of the drought, he is driving five or six semi-trailer loads of hay a week up from Victoria.
He said the NSW Government should show some concession to hay carters in the drought – as they had done on the Oxley Highway, where Triple-B hay loads were permitted.
“As far as I can see this is just revenue raising. I copped a fine but there was no infringement,” Mr Cox said. “I had 43 bales of hay on the back and I wasn’t over width, over weight, I was just over length. If you have two divisible loads you are illegal. Unbelievably, if I had just one bale of hay on the back it was a legal load.
“I told them that they were just targetting hay trucks. I said ‘We’re in the middle of a drought and you’re doing this’. I was told I could be legal, I just needed to go and get an exemption for being over 19 metres – but how many people know that. Then I had to go through a drug test that I’d never done before in my life and then they looked at my log book which doesn’t have one infringement. There are so many rules most farmers wouldn’t know about.”
Noel Pengilly, “Glenleigh Pastoral” who employs Mr Cox, said he also was pulled up at Parkes for a minor issue with brakes on a truck and was forced to drive all the way back to Forbes to get it fixed, which took just one quick turn of a spanner. “That was all time and money for nothing.” Mr Pengilly said.
“As far as I can see they are out to raise revenue, not protect the general public.” Glenleigh has over 60 registered trucks and vehicles. A comment was being sought from RMS and Roads Minister Melinda Pavey.
Late yesterday The Land received this response from Minister for Roads Melinda Pavey’s office:
“With large parts of NSW in drought and drought onset conditions, the NSW Government recognises the need for the increased movement of drought relief hay,” a spokesperson said.
“Operators transporting drought relief hay in NSW by heavy vehicles are encouraged to apply for high productivity vehicle access to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) via the NHVR Portal.
“In order for the NHVR to prioritise drought relief access requests, operators are advised to list the word DROUGHT in the “Create a new application Reference”. The steps to do this can be found on the NHVR portal home page https://www.nhvr.gov.au/road-access/access-management/nhvr-portal in the News Feed section.
“The operator concerned may wish to submit representation for review and consideration by the Roads and Maritime Services Compliance Adjudication team, taking into account the circumstances and operator history.”
Comment from a former RTA road safety expert, Lex Stewart:
‘When I was Road Safety Manager of the RTA’s western region (Vic border to Qld border and SA border to Lithgow) 1990-97 I put the speed limit UP on the Newell Highway from 100 to 110kph.
I used to get extra police up from Sydney and would pay a small portion of their overtime wages from the RTA’s budget — that gave me the leverage to control the operational policies — Police under my directions from 1990-97 would never have done something so silly as this.
I can remember giving a speech to a roomful of Police officers. I was giving them a “briefing” for the largescale operation covering most of western NSW using Police plus RTA (now RMS) Heavy Vehicle Inspectors
I said what I used to say often — “The measure of our success is NOT the number of tickets we issue — it is in reducing crashes, deaths and injuries. You can achieve good road safety outcomes equally as well by issuing lots of cautions and lots of highly visible blue flashing lights, rather than issuing lots of tickets. Have some compassion on farmers struggling with drought. If it is a serious brake failure, be ruthless and book them, but for most issues, issue a warning not a ticket, or require a fix of the problem and presentation of the vehicle for safety inspection later.”
A Police Officer came into the back of the room and listened to my leadership speech. I met him after the meeting, and found out that he was the Assistant Police Commissioner! I felt a bit of a fool – but he agreed with me and commended me on my approach.
In my experience, most Police officers are good blokes, but a few behave like the Gestapo and seem to get sadistic kicks out of making others suffer – it’s only a few.
I was delighted when I heard during one of these large scale joint exercises that a senior Police officer from Wollongong area had departed early, because the other Police officers in the exercise had ‘told him off’ for being too harsh and petty in issuing tickets, and giving them a bad name!’